Five Britons were in singles action on day two of the Australian Open, with two progressing to the second round of the first Grand Slam of 2021.
It turned out to be a roller-coaster affair for the Brits, featuring a slam debut for Francesca Jones and a showdown between Cameron Norrie and Dan Evans. Here’s how the day played out…
‘Happy’ Watson through after 16 days of quarantine
Heather Watson had a longer quarantine than most in Australia, certainly more than her first-round opponent Kristyna Pliskova, who was part of the lucky group to avoid a Covid-stricken plane on her journey over.
It meant Pliskova was able to train and leave her hotel room, but despite Watson facing 16 days in hers, she put those quarantine lack-of-practice fears behind her with an impressive 7-6(4) 7-6(3) win over the Czech.
Highlights: Britain's Watson beats Pilskova to progress
Asked afterwards when she started feeling “normal” again, Watson replied: “Since yesterday. Yesterday is the first day of practice where I felt like my game was starting to come back together. I was like, okay, I found the timing. Yesterday was pretty much the first day. Having a Tuesday start was big, so I got lucky there.
“Then today I thought I played pretty well considering who I was playing because she doesn't give you much rhythm anyway. Yeah, I was happy with how I played today.”
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‘Flat’ Evans gets double violation in Norrie defeat
The men’s British No 1 Dan Evans received two warnings within seconds during his tussle with compatriot Cameron Norrie.
The 30th seed’s temper boiled over during a long service game and he let rip at the umpire, resulting in a code violation for his foul language. "Stop saying f***ing that!" Evans yelled.
Get going! Get going! What is that?
Warning: the below video contains expletives
Evans gets both code and time violations for foul-mouthed response
After receiving the code violation, he added: "It's not that simple!" The umpire then proceeded to give him a time violation as the still fuming Evans stood on the service line trying to gather himself.
It got worse for Evans. The match had been finely poised at one set all, but after Norrie took a 2-1 lead his opponent squandered a huge opportunity to level.
Evans had a set point at 5-3 up in the fourth set, but after he was broken, Norrie went on to break again and then serve out for the match, completing his first win at the Australian Open, 6-4 4-6 6-4 7-5.
Highlights: Norrie overcomes Evans in all-British clash
It was a disappointing and abrupt end for Evans, who had only picked up his first ATP title just days earlier, and he admitted fatigue had got the better of him.
“I think when you're flat mentally, it pays off on you physically,” he said afterwards. “I wasn't very energetic, started very slowly. You know, I prepared as well as I could, but I could feel myself talking a lot, and it was tough to get out of. I was definitely probably tired mentally, and then - I did a good job to hang in the match.
“But yeah, this is sort of exactly the reason I told you guys I wouldn't play the week before the Grand Slams was to try and conserve my body, and it's happened again. Obviously the circumstances have dictated that, but he lost first round last week, got shed-loads of practice in this week and then probably could dictate his own days, and I didn't get that chance. Granted, I won last week, but it doesn't feel that good now. So yeah, it's a bit bittersweet really.”
Norrie, meanwhile, was delighted: "It's never easy having to play the only other Brit in the draw. And I'm good friends with Dan. I have obviously played him a bunch in a couple of the Battle of the Brits over in London. We have played each other a lot. We both know each other's games well. It was not easy. I was very nervous before the match. And obviously he had done well last week and got the title, so I knew he was going to be playing well. I was ready for that.
Yeah, it's not easy but managed to sneak over the line, so I was pretty happy with it.
Konta miffed as abs injury prompts withdrawal
From fatigue for Evans to injury woe for Johanna Konta, as the 13th seed was forced to retire from her first-round match against Kaja Juvan with abdominal issues, having suffered the problem when stretching for an overhead in the first set.
Highlights: Konta retires from first-round match due to injury
"I felt it in kind of my second service game of the first set, so then I was just conscious of trying to adapt while using my legs more on my serve," she told the media afterwards, having won the first set before losing the opening two games of the second and calling it quits.
"And then my second-last service game of the first set, that's when it started to get quite painful, and I then again tried to just manage it the best I could, but then in my last service game of the first set, that's when I needed to intervene with the physios to try and offload it in any way with tape and things like that.
I don't have answers for you of why this happened. I don't know, to be honest. I haven't had an ab issue in a very, very long time, so, yeah, I don't know.
Johanna Konta of Great Britain reacts as she leaves the court after retiring
Image credit: Getty Images
Jones’ special run ends – ‘I can compete at this level’
For Francesca Jones, her grand slam debut finished at the first hurdle, but having defied the odds to reach Melbourne the world No 245 managed to push Shelby Rogers, ranked 57th, in the first set before falling 6-4 6-1.
Highlights: Jones sees special run end as Rogers wins through
Jones, who suffers from ectrodactyly-ectodermal dysplasia syndrome, came through qualifying last month to reach her first slam, and the 20-year-old is eager to repeat the feat in the future.
Asked what she is going to take away from her debut, Jones replied: “I think as I previously mentioned just being aware of the quick momentum changes at this level. I think, you know, there are a lot of positives, although my tone of voice might not be seeing it right now.
I'm going to sit down and watch the match with my coach when I'm slightly more objective, but I think overall I have proved that I can compete at this level, and I think now it's about accumulating as many matches as possible over the next 12 months against players such as Shelby or even of a higher level.
“My feet are very much on the ground. Back to reality for me, it's been great here, but it's all about working hard in the day to day, and, you know, as I said, my feet are very much on the ground, and I just want to get going with what happens next.”
Francesca Jones: Proving doubters wrong and reaching Australian Open